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Last Laurels: The German Defence of Upper Silesia, January-May 1945 Hardcover – 13 Sep 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Helion & Company (13 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1874622655
  • ISBN-13: 978-1874622659
  • Product Dimensions: 30.6 x 22.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 520,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Ch 19
From Turawa, the thin defensive line of the forces gathered together under the command of General Hartmann’s VIII Corps spanned the area to the east of Oppeln, in a semicircle that ran through the extensive wooded districts, on the once sleepily flowing beautiful Malapane. The area covered Forst Turawa, Forst Föhrendorf, Forst Schönhorst, Grafenweiler Forst, Hochwalder Forst, as far as Gross-Strehlitz. Between Turawa and the village of Malapane, by the Malapane reservoir, the point units of the Soviet attack felt their way forwards against the outer defensive ring that faced Oppeln. Here, the Soviet tanks had no prospect of an easy ride to the Oder. The way to Oppeln would be marked by numerous wrecks of shot-up T-34s. Inhabitants of Malapane, who wanted to flee, were bitterly disappointed and in despair when the expected transport train did not turn up. "Well that’s war," was the cynical comment of the National Socialist Ortsgruppenleiter.

The defenders of Gross-Strehlitz consisted of a weak contingent of regular troops, Volkssturm and Hitler Youth, who had not been able to hold out long against the superior enemy, and had been overrun. Treating them like game, the soldiers moving in hunted down women. Whoever tried to oppose, or resist the brute force, was shot or killed in short order. This also happened to senior priest Pastor Lange, as he placed himself protectively in front of a group of women and girls. He was not the only clergyman who was killed in Gross-Strehlitz. Houses were going up in flames. In Niedersteine, 5 kilometres to the south-east, on the important trunk road no.5 to Breslau-Oppeln-Beuthen, the arrival of the Soviets surprised the population. Up to the late evening of 21 January, the Soviets were broadening their advance from there, by at least another 5 kilometres, in the direction of the Oder at Cosel-Ratibor. To the right, a short distance away, was the Annaberg, Upper Silesia’s holy mountain. This was an old place of pilgrimage for the devout, with an imposing Freikorps memorial, and with blood-soaked ground from the time of the resistance against the Korfanty terror. In Cosel there had been an overpowering sense of alarm from late afternoon.

In the area between Gross-Strehlitz-Tost and Tarnowitz, the Soviets had gained relatively little ground compared with the previous day. The courageous and desperate defence of the overstrained German combat units was still having its effect on the eastern flank, and also directly on the northern periphery of the industrial district. There, the Soviets, suffering considerable casualties, were either stalled or only advancing slowly. But they could increase their pressure from hour to hour by bringing up fresh forces and could eventually bring the arc of the German defence to breaking point. The Germans, until then, were still vainly hoping that at least 20th Panzer Division would arrive.

The village of Zyglin in the north-eastern part of the Tarnowitz Kreis, like the adjacent Georgenberg surrounded by large wooded areas, was occupied by 200 Soviet infantry. 8 German Luftwaffe troops who had been taken prisoner fell victim to the bloodlust of the enemy by the cemetery wall. Randsdorf, on trunk road no.5, west of Beuthen, had not been evacuated according to plan, "although there was sufficient time to have done so." During the night, before the Soviets moved in on 21 January 1945, the mayor and Party leaders of the municipality had secretly made off. In neighbouring Stillersfeld, in spite of being warned in time, only ten percent of the inhabitants could bring themselves to flee. The remaining ninety percent were relying on the hope "that it couldn’t be so bad."

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard A. Yeo on 28 Jan. 2005
Format: Hardcover
This Book is an essential read for anyone with an interest in the Eastern Front. Although heavy on the hopelessness and horrific nature of war and its impact on civilian life, it is still an excellent narrative of the heavy defensive fighting carried out by the Germans at this time. The extraodrinary bravery shown by the german 'tommy' defending his homeland against the miught of the inevitable Russian juggernaught an outstanding read please may we have more books of this nature on little discussed areas of history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Singapore Relic on 19 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a very involved account of the German defeat in Silesia at the end of WW2. Surprisingly the maps, photos and obviously translated passages coalesce to stun the reader - how fiercely the imploding German army attempted to hold onto this precious land which was actually doomed once the huge USSR gained its strength after Stalingrad. It is written from the German side obviously, but this is an account that needs to be told. The bitterness is there - about Yalta, the arming of the Russians by the Western Allies, the catastrophy of Hitler's decisions to hold the Western Front at the expense of these eastern German lands and the tragic behaviour of the Russians towards German civilians. But Germany brutally invaded Russia and nowhere in the book are the Polish really mentioned.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Niche study of the war in the east 20 July 2006
By R. Nelson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book about four years ago. I purchased it specifically because of the dearth of available information on the final months of the war in the east below the operational level. I was not disapointed. The author presents the final battles in Silesia from the German view, in this it is a valuable addition to the library of those interested in the Eastern Front. The book is similar in character to the works of Carrell or Franz Kurowski, if you like their books, then you will like this one as well. While there are some holes and a German bias, I did not feel this detracted from the book. There really is no single book that I am familiar with that I feel stands alone. In conjunction with other books/authors, such as Tieke, Duffy, Hinze, LeTissier, Maier, and several others, this book fills a niche in the available history of the war. One that is not common fare in popular war history of available in most bookstore shelves. The book has some great pictures, decent maps, the orders of battle provide limited detail. Bottom line, I was not disappointed in the money I spent on this book and I still pick it up from time to time. If you like Carrell or Kurowski, buy this book too; if that is not your cup of tea then this probably won't be either.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Masterful account of this phase of the war 27 Jan. 2006
By B. Fairbank - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The fighting in Silesia is usually dismissed in a sentence or two, if mentioned at all, in prior English accounts. The publishers should be congratulated on taking on such a project as translating this major German work.

The book covers in an enormous amount of detail the fighting in Upper Silesia, but note that Breslau was in Lower Silesia, and is therefore not included. However, many other less famous towns are included, for instance Rybnik, Neisse etc. The detail is tremendous, and goes down to company detail in some cases. There are many eyewitness accounts.

The impressive thing about the research for this book is that much of it was original, i.e. the accounts are drawn directly from testimony passed to the author, and not reliant on secondary sources in many cases.

The book is illustrated with a large number of maps, and a very large number of photographs, most of which were new to me. This book is printed in large format, to allow maximum reproduction of the photographs included.

Finally, there are comprehensive and detailed orders the battle for both sides, down to divisional level.

To comment on the previous reviewer, all and any work published by one nationality or another that was involved in this conflict will be biased. It is up to the reader to use their critical judgment to assess the merits or otherwise of each source. Gunter writes at length about the destruction and slaughter in this part of Germany because nobody else had done. Unpalatable though it may sometimes seem to people, some Germans were victims as much as people from any other nation involved in war. If we always neglect this fact, and continue to operate in that ignorant manner, we would be doomed to repeat the mistakes that led to events such as the Second World War, in perpetuity. If, on the other hand, we read the book with our 'critical radar' turned on, but in an enlightened manner, much can be taken from it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Last Laurels from a German perspective 2 Mar. 2010
By Dave Schranck - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After studying the war, Mr Gunter decided the coverage of the Upper Silesia Campaign and this timeframe in general was incomplete or not always accurate and this book is his attempt at correcting that situation.
The battle for this critical industrial and mining region didn't occur in a vacuum, so while the Upper Silesia is the prominent theme, the author also mentions briefly Operation Bagration and the Vistula River Offensive to set the stage for his book. As the struggle for Upper Silesia develops, the author also briefly updates the reader what was happening on the northern Oder, in Prussia and even on the Rhine River to the west.

The struggle begins with the Allied bombing of the Heydebreck generation and synthetic plants in early July 1944 and then quickly works his way to the end of the year. In early January 1945, the Soviet assault on the region begins in earnest and the story flourishes with details.

Using mostly primary documents and interviews, the author reconstructs an almost daily chronicle of the German happenstance till the end of the battle and beyond. The tactical coverage, at least on the German side, is very good but what elevates this book to five stars is the moving account given of the German officers, soldiers and civilians as the battle rages. These eyewitness accounts really show the horrors of war and shows what this war of annihilation digressed to.
The tactical coverage of the battle is very good and moderately easy to follow but there are many large maps to help the reader even more. There are also many large photos of German officers as well as battle scenes to add to the reader's experience. There are Endnotes, a Bibliography, a Glossary and an awesome Index to assist the reader.

Despite the German bias, I thought this book very good and definitely worth the investment. Its highly recommended to those that are interested in the tactical aspects of war or are concerned with the brutality that the war evolved into.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Good But Could Be Better 1 April 2006
By SEAN MCATEER - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an informative book on the little known Upper Silesian Campaign in 1945. It is tactical/operational in scope and has many personal accounts as well. It is almost exclusively from the German point of view and does not pretend to be anything different than an account of the defense only. It suffers from a less than stellar translation which makes it read rather stilted. The physical production of the book is excellent--well bound and slick pages, oversized.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Welcome addition to accounts of WWII Eastern Front 23 July 2010
By Rob Fitzgibbon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There isn't a lot written in English about the German defensive battles in upper Silesia in 1945, so Helion's translation of Georg Gunter's work is especially welcome. Large format, lots of photographs, useful abbreviations. Lots of maps explain the tactical section, and the book includes glossary and ORBAT information, a helpful appendix of German unit insignia, bibliography and index.

Last Laurels gives a good overview of the spring 1945 Silesian campaign, concentrating on the activities of the 1st Ski Jaeger Division. A dozen-odd other German units are briefly covered, including
- 8th & 20th Panzer Divisions
- 18th & 20th SS Divisions
- 344th Infantry Divisions

For anyone interested in the Eastern Front, the Wehrmacht or the closing months of WWII in Europe, Last Laurels is worth a read.
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